Visitation, and the tourism it supports, has a strong focus in economic development. In fact, the first touch a community has with an investment decision-maker is often through visitation. At the chamber, we believe developing a strategy for destination management should integrate tourism-related opportunities with business attraction and expansion efforts.
The chamber recognizes the economic potential of a systemic plan to develop destination assets for the area. However, to make strategic, data-driven decisions for this industry, more information is needed. Within the context of destination management, what do we have? What are we missing? What do we want? How are we connected?
The chamber recently received funding from the state Legislature capital budget that will allow us to conduct a tourism enhancement study, an inventory of assets and a delineation of opportunities for the expansion of this business sector. We are already home to some great venues, and the future asks us to prepare for economic sustainability as the tourism sector grows.
The study will provide the chamber with a backbone of data to explore the integration of the Federal Way area as a destination that welcomes visitors and encourages economic growth within the business corridor between Seattle and Tacoma. Like our businesses, the chamber knows that data can be its own economic driver in accessing the viability and impact of projects.
So what does tourism have to do with business? In its 2014 study, “Destination Promotion: An Engine for Economic Development,” Oxford Economics addressed how the visitor economy drives broader economic growth — not just tourism. Those findings relate to the efforts underway in Federal Way as it considers transportation infrastructure, business attraction and supporting a workforce.
Transportation corridors connecting tourism destinations and their venues provide “greater accessibility and supply logistics that are important in attracting investment to other sectors,” according to Oxford Economics. In addition, “destination promotion builds awareness, familiarity, and relationships in commercial networks (institutional, companies, individuals) that are critical in attracting investment.”
Business investment often includes attracting employees to a community. In support of the talent recruitment efforts of our businesses, the chamber has integrated messaging for business, hospitality and community in its annual South Sound Relocation and Visitors Guide.
Because amenities associated with visitation also support the growth of a skilled workforce, our tourism enhancement study will help the chamber assess how to position economic possibilities in the development of destination clusters within the greater Federal Way area of the South Puget Sound region.
There’s some low-hanging fruit here for Federal Way. In choosing a location to do business, we know the next generation of business leaders, and the workforce that accompanies them, are looking for locally sourced food, as well as microbrews, craft spirits and wine, hence our support of zoning and permitting revisions at the city to welcome this new industry to our business community.
Other broad-topic sectors identified as national drivers that are relative to greater Federal Way include: environmentally based recreation; arts, history and culture; sports; destination venues; as well as waterfronts and state parks.
While the chamber is not the tourism promotion agency for the area, it recognizes that tourism is a growth industry and looks to strategically connect opportunities that will increase access to multiple business segments within our city.
Once the study is completed, the chamber will work with our businesses and community partners to develop a strategy that positions Federal Way as a desirable place to visit, where a range of recreational opportunities are accessible to everyone in a community that supports and welcomes job creation.
But first, the data.
Rebecca Martin is the Greater Federal Way Chamber of Commerce CEO.